It takes a special athlete to overcome the ingrained size discrimination that exists in today’s NHL, one who must combine quickness, intelligence, athleticism, skill, courage and, most importantly, determination.
After being drafted 20th overall on June 7th, 2003 by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, the diminutive pivot managed to have a very successful QMJHL career from 2003 to 2007. In 262 games with Chicoutimi, Desharnais scored 126 goals and added 248 assists for 374 points - a 1.43 point per game rate. He also won the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy as the QMJHL’s most sportsmanlike player in three consecutive years from 2004-05 to 2006-07.
Despite a successful junior career, the talented center went undrafted at the 2005, 2006 and 2007 NHL Entry Drafts.
The following September, Desharnais received an invitation to the Canadiens rookie training camp on a tryout basis on the recommendation of Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, who is a co-owner of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
After his tryout, the Laurier-Station, Quebec native signed a contract with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. That year, as a rookie, Desharnais led the league in scoring with 106 points in only 68 games. Desharnais is only the fourth rookie in 20 years to lead the ECHL in scoring.
The competitive rookie added 33 points in 22 play-off games to lead the Cyclones to their first Kelly Cup championship.
One year later, in September 2008, Desharnais was invited to the Canadiens rookie camp on an AHL-contract. He participated in four exhibition games, recording two assists, before being sent down to Hamilton. One month into the season, Desharnais signed a two-way contract with the Habs. In his first full-AHL season, he recorded 24 goals and 34 assists for 58 points along with a +12 ratio in 77 games. He finished tied for third in AHL rookie scoring.
The following season, Desharnais exploded at the AHL level, scoring 27 goals and adding 51 helpers for 78 points along with a fantastic +30 rating in 60 games. The center also played in his first NHL game on November 25th, 2009 at Pittsburgh and recorded his first NHL point versus Washington on February 10, 2010.
In 2010-11, Desharnais starts the season in Hamilton once again, notching an impressive 10 goals and 35 assists for 45 points in only 35 games with the Bulldogs. DD instantly clicks with current line-mate Max Pacioretty before both players get called-up during the season.
When the Canadiens decided they want to part ways with forward Maxim Lapierre on December 30, 2010, trading him to the Anaheim Ducks, it opened a roster spot for the creative pivot. Desharnais was called-up the next day and finished the season with the Canadiens, playing 43 games with the big club, scoring 8 goals and 14 assists for 22 points despite playing only 12:52 minutes per game.
As restricted free agent in July, Desharnais signed a two-year, one way contract with Montreal valued at $750,000 dollars in year one and $950,000 in year two.
Thanks to an early injury to Lars Eller, the 25 year-old center started this season on the team's third line behind veterans like Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez.
Desharnais took advantage of the opportunity. After overpaid veteran Scott Gomez went down with a lower-body injury, DD found himself on the team's top-six playing with talented players such as Erik Cole, Max Pacioretty, Andrei Kostitsyn and Brian Gionta.
After a few games, former head-coach Jacques Martin reunited Desharnais and Pacioretty on a line completed by recently signed power forward Erik Cole. The line immediately began producing and has now become the Canadiens' most reliable forward line.
So far in 2011-12, Desharnais has amassed 5 goals and 15 assists for 20 points in 33 games. He is arguably now the team's number one center, ahead of struggling center Tomas Plekanec. Even when veteran Scott Gomez returns to the line-up, it will be hard for the Canadiens to cut DD's ice time of 17:47 minutes/game as he's on pace for almost 50 points over a full season, whereas Gomez hasn't scored a goal in almost a year.
In short (pun not intended), David Desharnais, or double-D, is an undrafted master illusionist whose magic and courage have vaulted him from the minors to the Montreal Canadiens' top-producing forward line in less than 12 months. He seems destined to join other diminutive players who have had tremendous success in the NHL such as Martin St-Louis and Steve Sullivan.
Fred is a freelance sports write and translator, as well as a Montreal Canadiens blogger on http://thehockwywriters.com and a baseball columnist on http://www.dobberbaseball.com/. Fred also joined HabsAddict.com in time for the 2011-12 season.
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(Photo by Richard Wolowicz / Getty Images North America)